Cool but creepy animated fantasy too scary for young kids.
  • Review Date: July 20, 2009
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Release Year: 2009
  • Running Time: 100 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Coraline ultimately learns that sometimes imperfect, messy lives aren't as bad as they seem. She realizes that her imperfect real parents are better than perfect-seeming fake ones, and her parents realize that they don't spend enough time with their daughter.

Positive role models

Coraline's parents start out being impatient with and dismissive of her (and generally don't seem to enjoy having her around), but their perspective and behavior changes by the end of the movie. Coraline herself is spunky, brave, and resourceful, though she, too, has important lessons to learn about appreciating family. The Other Mother wants Coraline to behave a certain way and pursues her goals at any cost. Multi-generational friendships are formed.


The movie has a dark, creepy tone overall, and the Other Mother becomes witch-like and frightening. It's implied that she has more or less killed three other children. Some of her minions try to "get" Coraline and the Cat, but they don't succeed.


Nothing directly sexual, but the two very buxom elderly actresses wear barely-there costumes for their performance (one in a reference to Botticelli's famous Birth of Venus painting).


Infrequent use of words like "crap" and "oh my God" and insults including "jerkwad," "idiot," "evil witch," and "stupid."

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

None, even though Coraline's mother thinks Mr. Bobinksy is a drunk.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this movie will scare young kids. Slightly less creepy than the book on which it was based, the movie is still quite dark, and the "other" world that Coraline discovers turns into a frightening, dangerous place where she could very well die (and other ghost children already have). Your young kids may be interested in seeing the movie thanks to the massive marketing campaign, but this isn't an age-appropriate pick for them. This movie deals with mature themes -- being careful what you wish for, thinking the grass is always greener, and being disappointed in your parents -- that are best suited for tweens and up. Language is mostly insults (like "jerkwad" and "idiot"), and sexuality is limited to two scantily dressed elderly actresses in one memorable scene.

What's the story?

Coraline Jones (voiced by Dakota Fanning) is an only child who's unhappy about moving to a new house with her self-absorbed parents (Teri Hatcher and John Hodgman), who are too busy working to spend any time with her. The other inhabitants of their building are an eccentric crew: Russian mouse-circus ringmaster Mr. Bobinksy (Ian McShane) and bickering actresses Miss Spink and Miss Forcible (Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French), who are about six decades past their prime. When Coraline (never CARoline) opens a small hidden door in her apartment, she discovers a secret passageway to a parallel other world where everything -- her parents, her house, her neighbors, her magical garden -- seems way better ... or is it? Eventually, Coraline's dream world reveals itself to be a frightening, perilous place.

Is it any good?


In CORALINE, director Henry Selick, a stop-motion master best known for The Nightmare Before Christmas, creates a magical, colorful nether-world that's also dark and disturbing. At first, in addition to offering Coraline attentive "Other" parents, the alternate universe boasts a dazzling garden and a fantastic circus and theater acts, courtesy of the Other neighbors. Coraline, along with the audience, gets swept into the magic -- but there's an unnerving edge to all of the perfection. Everyone has buttons for eyes, except for Coraline and a mysterious talking cat (Keith David) that warns Coraline that her Other Mother isn't as warm and loving as she seems.

The 3-D effects (Coraline is Hollywood's first 3-D stop-motion film) are cool without being overwhelming, and the story is a two-pronged cautionary tale -- for parents and kids not to take each other for granted, and for people not to dwell on whether the grass is greener, because it could all be a huge, horrifying charade. Coraline ultimately learns that sometimes imperfect, messy lives aren't always as bad as they seem. Considering how formulaic so many family movies are , Coraline is a refreshing and inventive film. While too intense for some tots, it's a memorable treat for families with thrill-seeking tweens and up.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the story's theme of wishing for a different, "better" life. Kids: Do you ever feel like Coraline? What about her parents made her initially prefer the Other Mother and Father? 

  • How do both Coraline and her parents change over the course of the movie? 

  • Do you think this movie is meant for little kids, or is it too scary?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:February 6, 2009
DVD release date:July 21, 2009
Cast:Dakota Fanning, John Hodgman, Teri Hatcher
Director:Henry Selick
Studio:Focus Features
Topics:Magic and fantasy, Book characters, Great girl role models
Run time:100 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:thematic elements, scary images, some language and suggestive humor

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Written byAnonymous June 30, 2013
age 9+


Amazing and enchanting movie. It is too scary for young kids and there is one inappropriate scene for kids. There is so many bad reviews but shut up! What do you expect? Great movie.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Parent of a 6, 12, and 15 year old Written bycareful mom too August 30, 2009
age 2+
I rented it for the kids and they watched it, then I watched it later with them. I was in total shock at the might-as-well-be-nude scene with the lady with the exaggerated chest. What is wrong with the people who make these things? I don't think it was appropriate for ANY age, least of all, kids. I'm still angry about it. Why do people keep saying, "It was OK EXCEPT for the taking the Lord's name in vain and the naked ladies?" Those things,among others, make it NOT OK in any sense. It was pornographic and disgusting. I'm still angry.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Parent of a 8 year old Written byrienovo March 20, 2009
age 8+

8 is too young.

Very good movie, but I would agree with other viewers that it is too scary for children 8 and under. I thought our 8 y/o daughter would be ok, as she has seen other scary movies such as Narnia and Harry Potter, but this is way creepier. She spent the last half of the movie in her father's lap. And we didn't even see it in 3D! So much for animation being less scary! I wish I had read the reviews before going!
What other families should know
Too much violence
Parent of a 4, 6, and 8 year old Written by3girlsmom March 26, 2009
age 13+

Very disappointed

I regret not reading reviews before seeing this with my children. From the advertising, I thought it'd be ok for kids and didn't look very scary. I was so wrong. Some helpful reviews if you haven't seen it are from: missbunhead, ParkerH, peony,and AmyB. I'd recommend reading these because they give good details of the iffy aspects of the movie and explain some of the reasons why other people said what they did. I, personally, hated it. The first half was dark, slow, and left you wondering what in the world the story was about. It leads to intense and disturbing scenes that can be very difficult for some to see or hear. I should have left with my 2 younger ones,(4.8 and 6.5), but stayed because my husband and 8y/o daughter didn't see how it was too scary. I would compare it to The Twilight Zone or Alfred Hitchcock. It was well done, had good animation, and had an unusual storyline. I guess I can say that about it. I just don't like scary movies, period. I'd rather see films that make me feel good afterward and leave me thinking that yes, there is good in the world. I'm a bit more sensitive and so are my children(I'll admit that). They are very sweet, kind, loving kids, and I think if this describes your child then don't take them. I wish I wouldn't have seen it, but as I said earlier, my husband thought it was fine. The parts that disappointed me the most were: the old lady with massive, bouncing breasts having tiny stars covering her nipples and wearing a nearly unseen thong because her fat almost covered it all; the immense intensity of the creepy, scary scenes (which is nearly the whole movie); the thought of having buttons sewn on your(the girl's) eyes and on the mouth(the boy); the ghost children who lost their souls to the evil spiderwoman who had sewn buttons on their eyes; the swear word, and the thought that your parents might not be real and will eventually betray and abuse you. My 4&6 yr-olds had their eyes covered, curling up to me the whole last half of the film. But like I said, my children are happy, pleasant, kind children who wouldn't want to hurt anyone. They both had 2 bad dreams that my husband and I had button eyes within 2 weeks of seeing it, and my 4y/o has strongly requested multiple times to never see it again. I reassured her we won't. I'm surprised at how many children enjoyed this movie. I agree with missbunhead that this could be because of neglectful parents with little real morals. For those reading reviews from others who rated this movie as good, take a look at some of their usernames.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing


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